39 Best Mexico Travel Tips To Save You Time, Money & Stress!
Don’t make these common mistakes when traveling to Mexico. After traveling to Mexico a bunch, I’ve definitely made my share of mistakes. Those mistakes were the inspiration for this list of 39 things to know before traveling to Mexico.
These are the Mexico travel tips that I wish I had known before traveling to Mexico for the first time. I hope these tips will help save you some time, money, and hopefully some stress so you can truly enjoy your vacation to the fullest.
1. Bathroom Doors With an “M” Are For Women
In Spanish, “Women” is “Mujer”. Thus all the bathroom doors for women are marked with an “M”. Don’t get it confused for “men” like I did.
2. Don’t Lose Your Immigration Form
When you first enter Mexico you will get an immigration form, called an FMM. You will have to return this form to immigration when you leave or pay a fine of at least 600 pesos.
3. Carry Copies of Your Passport and FMM With You
In Mexico, you are legally required to carry your passport and immigration form with you at all times. I don’t want to lose mine so I carry copies in my wallet and I’ve never had an issue.
4. Don’t Drink The Water
One of the top tips for not getting sick in Mexico is to not drink the water. Tap water in Mexico isn’t safe anywhere you go as it can contain bacteria, viruses, and parasites.
5. Travel Away From Tourist Areas
If you’re traveling to a popular city like Cancun or Cabo don’t be afraid to get out of the city. Some of the best parts of Mexico are the places you haven’t heard of.
6. Throw Your Toilet Paper In The Trash
In Mexico, instead of throwing their toilet paper in the toilet people throw it in the trash. The pipes and septic systems in Mexico aren’t built to handle toilet paper and you can cause it to plug up or even destroy the plumbing if you flush your toilet paper.
7. Use a VPN
Using a VPN is a must almost anywhere you go. In Mexico, it’s especially the case. Hackers have been on the rise in Mexico and you don’t want to get your data stolen. A VPN is a good way to prevent that and isn’t very expensive.
8. Bring Hand Sanitizer
Make sure to bring hand sanitizer with you everywhere you go. Mexico can be a dirty place and you want to make sure your hands are nice and clean before you eat.
9. Get Travel Insurance
Everyone should get travel insurance before they go to Mexico. It’s not very expensive and it’ll save you a ton of headaches and money if you need it.
The last thing you want is to be stuck in a Mexican hospital and they’re not letting you leave because you can’t pay the bill.
10. Avoid Car Rental Scams
Car rental scams are on the rise in Mexico. If you see a car rental company charging very little per day it’s most likely a scam.
When you get there will be required to use their overpriced insurance or you might even get charged for fraudulent damages when you bring it back. It’s usually best to use a well-known company like Hertz.
11. Pay With Pesos
When possible, always pay with pesos. If you pay with American dollars or another currency you have almost surely be charged yeah worst exchange rate than you’ll get by using an ATM.
12. Take the Colectivos
Most bigger Mexican cities will have collectivos that you can that are like city buses that will be a fraction of the cost of taking a taxi or Uber.
13. Take ADO Buses
Don’t be afraid of taking the ADO buses across the country. They are usually very economical and are a lot better than taking a greyhound bus in the United States. I’ve spent some great times on ADO buses and I always love the movies they play along the trip.
14. Bring a Sweatshirt
If you plan on venturing out of your beach town make sure to bring a sweatshirt. I took the ADO bus to San Cristobal de Las Casas from Cancun and made the mistake of not bringing one. Even though it was in the 90s in Cancun got as cold as 50 degrees Fahrenheit in Chiapas. Even bigger cities like Mexico City can get cold during summer nights.
15. Give Yourself Extra Time for Everything
People in Latin America tend to be more laid back than in the United States and everything takes more time. Be sure to add in extra time in your trip for everything in case there are long lines or you don’t get the service you would normally get in the United States.
16. Check But Don’t Always Trust Weather Reports
In Mexico, you want to be prepared for any type of weather that could happen. When you check the weather reports you might see rain every day but in reality, it might only rain half an hour during each day and the rest of the day will be nice. The weather changes frequently in Mexico and it’s harder to predict than elsewhere.
17. Museums are Closed on Mondays
Don’t plan on going to any museums on Monday as they will be closed.
18. Get a Telcel SIM Card
The first thing I do when I get to Mexico is to find a Telcel SIM card vendor and load it up with some data. Telcel is the number one cell phone provider in Mexico and data is always cheaper and faster than what my providers in the United States give me.
19. Bring Ear Plugs
Mexico is loud. You can be woken up by street vendors in the morning and parties at night. So I always bring some good noise-canceling earplugs to wear to sleep at night.
20. Bring Sunscreen
Bring some sunscreen along in your luggage. If you wait until you arrive, you’ll surely be paying premium prices. Sunscreen isn’t as popular in Mexico as the locals typically don’t use it and it’s more of a gringo item.
21. Ask Locals and Cab Drivers for Tips
The locals and cab drivers are really nice and will have no problem helping you out with some tips on where to get some good food or unique things to do.
22. Learn Basic Spanish
Getting around Mexico is a lot easier if you know some basic Spanish. Knowing how to count to 100, order some food, and ask for directions will make your Mexico travels 100x easier.
23. Register with STEP
Before you leave for Mexico, register with the nearest United States embassy or consulate through the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program. By doing so, you’ll receive important information on your safety and they’ll contact you in the case of an emergency to help.
24. Don’t Be Afraid of the Tours
My first time in Cancun I completely ignored the tour vendors and decided to go to Chichen Itza all by myself. It was a good time but nowhere near as good as the tour I got for $35 to Tulum/Coba that included a buffet meal and excellent tour guides that could actually explain what I was looking at.
25. Save Maps for Offline Use
I use Google Maps a lot for getting around cities in Mexico but the internet can be spotty in a different country so I make sure I download all of the local maps so I can use them offline or when my data is running low.
26. Bring a Sun Hat
The sun in Mexico is no joke. Bring a sun hat to wear when your out to keep the sun off of your face and neck and keep you a lot cooler.
27. Cash is King
Cash is still the preferred option in Mexico although more and more places are accepting debit and credit cards. Small bills are also preferred as not everyone will have change for your 500 peso bills.
28. Don’t Use Currency Exchange Companies
Currency exchange companies are everywhere in tourist areas and they survive by charging huge fees for exchanging your money into pesos. Instead, use an ATM that will charge you lesser fees and the exchange rates are usually better too!
29. Use Indoor Bank ATMs only
ATMs in Mexico aren’t as safe to use as elsewhere in the world. People are known to put skimmers on ATMs in order to steal your credit card information. Instead of using an outdoor ATM, use an indoor ATM at a bank to ensure your information doesn’t land in the wrong hands.
30. Avoid ATMs on Paydays
ATMs get really popular on paydays and will definitely have long lines. I remember standing in line at the ATM in the Cancun ADO station and the ATM ran out of money before I could get anything out. Save yourself a headache and go to the ATM on less busy days.
31. Agree on Taxi Fare Before Entering
Don’t get scammed into paying extra for your taxi ride and agree on your taxi fare before you get in. I can usually get around downtown Cancun for less than 60 pesos and going between the hotel zone and the downtown area typically costs 350 pesos.
32. Test The Salsa
Salsa in Mexico can vary dramatically from restaurant to restaurant. Don’t make the same mistake I’ve made more times than I admit and taste test the salsa before putting it on any of your tacos.
33. Bathrooms Aren’t Free
If you’re in public and need to go to the bathroom, make sure you have some coins on you because most bathrooms are not free and will have attendants guarding the door.
34. Carry Tissues for TP
It’s not uncommon for the bathroom to be missing some toilet paper. Bring a travel pack of tissues with you to keep yourself out of a bad situation.
35. Haggling Isn’t Very Common
Haggling in Mexico isn’t as common as most people think. Sure, you can probably haggle with the guys selling souvenirs but that’s one of the only exceptions. Trying to haggle the price of your food or when you’re in non-tourist areas will be seen as somewhat insulting.
36. Don’t Pump Your Own Gas
Gas attendants will pump your gas for you so don’t try to fill up your own tank.
37. Drive During The Day Only
If you decide to rent a car or drive through Mexico, be sure to not drive during the night when you’re more likely to run into some bad folks and get robbed.
38. Download WhatsApp
The go-to communication app in Mexico is WhatsApp. Make sure to download it ahead of time so you can share your number when someone asks for it.
39. Tips are Expected
Just like in the United States, tips are expected and should be the same percentages you would use back home.
Do you have any Mexico travel tips that I didn’t include? Let me know in the comments below!